If I used the past
to draw a roadmap to the future,
I’d have expected the terrain
to be a salted earth disappointment.

Look, there’s Left Out Bay,
a bright jewel in the shadow of Half Truth Mountain.
And here I am,
the dot labeled Lone Traveler,
heading towards After Thought Lake,
waiting for the swamp smell to hit.

So I’m surprised
when the ground doesn’t give in under my feet.
The traveling doesn’t get lonely.
Even on days when I accidentally stumble
over Certain Doom Falls,
I see you’re sitting in the barrel next to mine,
arms raised, laughing and whooping as we go.

The future doesn’t look like the past at all.
Stupid map.

Process Note: This post is part Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads prompt, Let's Go Back In Time 


muscle pulls at
bone entwined by
tendon underneath

Only that
force needed
to maintain
the form

While the rest
must relax,
just enough,
to yield to
effortless vice.

Song Choice: Semi-Charmed Kind of Life by Third Eye Blind

This poem is inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, Word Count With Mama Zen (a poem inspired by the pictures given, written in 60 words or less). Head on over to enjoy more great poetry.

My Parents' One Moment of Whimsy

“Androgynous”, she sneered,
admiring the glow cast
from perfectly picked cherries of course.
“What is that even supposed to mean?
 It’s suspicious, subversive
and all that’s wrong with the world today.”

I thought back
to less elegant slights,
consisting of sing-song almost rhymes,
because my name couldn’t even do that properly.
Wishing for at least a foreignness
that harmonized with rolled r’s and end z’s
if I couldn’t be an Ann, Katie or Sue.
Not a quasimodo mouthful.

Androgynous? Ambiguous!
Neither here nor there.
A halfling name for a changeling child,
a peculiar woman,
and someday an eccentric crone.
I’ve always been at home
slip sliding between worlds.
Shouldn’t my name do the same?

So now when someone says,
“Pardon, Sir or Madame,
I don’t know who you are.”
I smile and say,
“I know.”

Process Notes: I saw writing a poem about using one's name was a topic a while ago on the Toads and always thought the idea was neat. I hated my name for the longest time until I got into an online political debate with a woman who made fun of it being so androgynous sounding (and implying its androgyny made my ability to engage in a debate suspect). That was the moment I learned to love it. My parents named me after Austrian actress Romy Schneider, but for some inexplicable reason decided to throw an extra "m" in.

Today's post is for the Tuesday Platform for Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads. Check out the rest of the terrific poetry over there. 

Ink Child

Are you up?

I have a story to tell you.
No, don’t go back to sleep.
It’s a good one I promise.
Not as good as
once upon a time
there was a girl who lived in a castle
and her name was Mommy,
but pretty good all the same.

Mommy lived in a castle,
overlooking a forest of motley fabric,
woven in fairy wings,
and painted silks.
Sometimes she made bricks out of minutes, hours and days,
building a tower high in the air.
But ink children loved to knock the blocks down.
That’s what children do you see.

Now it’s your turn.
Tell me a story.
Tell me my story.
It’s OK, I’ll stay up all night if you tell it.
Just make sure you tell it right.

Song Choice: LOL, because sometimes catering to the needs of ink children can be quite demanding I was in a silly mood and went with Little Girls from Annie performed by the fabulous Carol Burnett 

This is part of Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads Weekend Mini Challenge There's plenty of good poetry at the link

Still, but Alive

Don’t open it.
Not yet, he says.
Just wait
for the lighting
to be right,
and for my paints
to be ready.

Love doesn’t wait,
I want to shout,
for the moment to be portrait worthy.
It stealthy rampages
on its own timetable.

But I wait.
For the light to be right,
my dress to be crisp,
and my hair to be neatly bound.

I open your letter.
My soul soars at the sight of violets
gathered by your hand.
I want to whisper my promises in turn.
But I must keep perfectly still.

This poem is in response to the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads Jump on over to read some terrific poetry.

But Wait, There's More (Gossip's Tree Redux)

The Inciting A Riot podcast was asking for submissions for their Halloween show. I was in an extra hammy mood, so I decided, "Why not?" and submitted Gossip's Tree. The Rioter In Chief, Fire Lyte liked it, but said it felt incomplete somehow. I thought about it a bit and decided I really didn't have to be constrained by the 200 word limit if I could find more to the story. So I looked and found another 295 words to say. He liked the new direction of the story and decided to air it.

You should go and check out the show if you haven't yet. There's a lot of Halloween fun going on! Here's the revamped version of Gossip's Tree.

Gossip’s Tree

It wasn’t the biggest or oldest tree in Hawthorne County; nor was it especially ugly or lovely. It grew green in the spring, scarlet in the fall, and in the winter, snow blanketed it along with the rest of the county, in crystalline perfection.

The thing about this tree was that every twilight, the birds of the county would gather there. You’d think with so many, it’d fall under the weight, but it held. Jays would circle it, giving their “all’s well” cries, punctuating the few silent spots between the chatter.

Sometimes people passing it swore they could hear words.

Mr. Smith set up a new scarecrow.
The Anderson twins skipped school twice this month to go fishing.
Bethany Peabody has been having guests after dark again.

Sometimes someone would get it in their head, if they climbed it before twilight, if they kept still, they might hear everything the birds said. This was nonsense of course, because most who tried only got white stains on their clothes to show for it. And the others, well, while it was a mostly unremarkable tree, some mornings the person was gone, but you’d find the trunk had interesting new gnarls.

Eventually Bethany Peabody had had enough of all this. She had put up with the tree sharing her business for years now, but the disappearance of her grandson was the last straw. She came on a night following a mild, clear fall day in Hawthorne County, the sort of fall day that makes people forget that summer is really gone, but the chill in the night reminds you winter isn’t all that far off. By the time everything was over, that night would go down as one of the stormiest in Hawthorne County history.

It started when she ran her withered fingers over a patch of bark that looked like Donny Peabody’s face caught in mid-scream. She looked up where the birds held court and started to sing, softly at first, but then in a voice that rivaled the raucous bird squawks in volume and tone. Black clouds gathered. The sky opened, rain of Noachian proportions fell, but through the wind and the lightning people could hear her voice and that of the birds dueling in the storm. When it was over, her body was found in a ditch, still filled with rainwater, drowned. But the tree had been hit by lightning, blown right to the base of its trunk.   

Folks in Hawthorne County didn’t like to waste, and lightning blasted wood was no exception. Wood from the tree was used to hold the remains of Bethany Peabody as she was laid to rest. Some of the bolder folks took the last few bits as their needs called for it. But every now and again, when the night skies were stormy, a whisper would come through the homes of the good and thrifty people of Hawthorne County.

Bethany Peabody’s been having guests after dark again.

Now In Stereo!

My blog has hit the 100 likes mark on Facebook. To celebrate I decided to record myself reading, not one, but two stories in the Halloween spirit. For my first one, I've chosen Fangs, Sheathed because a.) vampire children seem like a natural for Halloween and b.) I had too much fun playing around with the different voices.

Enjoy and have a Happy Halloween and/or Blessed Samhain!

For the second story, tune into Inciting a Riot's special Hallowed Riot Show, coming soon!

A Thing To Wear

Lately I've been trying to wear full kimono to tea ceremony classes as a way to improve my technique. Some may joke, "How hard can that be? It's just wearing a robe, isn't it?" And I might even laugh back - through decidedly gritted teeth.

There's an art to kimono wearing, and it's a whole lot fussier than it might seem at first glance. A multitude of rules govern the proper wearing of one; there are schools that specialize in teaching people all the smallest details that take months, even years to complete. And if you're woman, the details of proper kimono wearing increase exponentially. Sometimes I look at the guys in my tea ceremony class, wishing I knew the Japanese version of "lucky bastards" so I could mutter it under my breath. They pretty much can stick to the same navy/gray/ brown color scheme year round while I'm scrambling to make sure the motifs in my kimono or it's style don't clash with the theme of the current time of year and coordinate with my obi.

I'm always a little surprised when people can't tell the difference between men's and women's kimono, though then again I've had more exposure to the culture than others have had. When I wrote my first Yuuki story around 10 years ago I played around with the idea of Westerners being somewhat clueless regarding this. I also thought the story was done as it was, until a certain Instigator insisted there was a bigger story in there. I mulled over her input and a.) realized the Instigator was right (stop cackling you!) and b.) while the other characters in the original story could plausibly be ignorant about the differences in kimono, as I expanded out the world it made no sense that no one else knew. 

So I played around with his (yes his) back story a bit, researched some and discovered that while Yuuki generally identifies as male, he's fascinated with onagata of the Edo era, popular male actors skilled at impersonating females. To him, they are sort of kindred spirits, being able to change their appearance if not as easily as a kitsune might, still with a certain level of skill. This draws him to a more colorful and fem aesthetic. That tweaks things only a tiny bit from my original story (which I haven't published here or anywhere as of yet, and as the Instigator suggested might be more novella or even novel length rather than short story length - stop cackling already!) but I'm glad that I took the time to get to understand Yuuki better to give him the story he deserves. It also made me appreciate the prettiness of my kimono more, and I do feel pretty when I wear them. But I still feel exasperated when I have to fold them; there are rules for that too. 

Fan Print #2 (Uchiwa-e) by Toyohara Kunichika (an onigata with a lover)

Song Choice: I Feel Pretty


You call the crone,
expecting to see a sweet faced granny,
ignoring the edge of madness in the cackles,
and anger that comes of watching lifetimes of humanity go by.

You call the mother,
expecting to hear a soothing lullaby,
ignoring the husky tones, secret smiles,
and the sway of the hips that made her mother in the first place.

Don’t call me,
expecting a sweet faced doll,
some comforting image of innocence,
with no wildness inside.
My frailty is my own, as is my strength.
Try and contain me and I will dance
all over the limits you place
and the definitions you try to force.
Ignore my precious ferocity at your own peril.
I am not here to comfort your preconceptions.

I am here for Myself.

Song Choice: As defined by Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, today's prompt was inspired by Sia's Chandelier 


The last note sang by the choir floated away under the mid-afternoon sun. People came forward one at a time to throw their handful of dirt over the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. It took a bit of time for everyone assembled to say their goodbyes, but before the afternoon’s blue sky deepened into purple, the last mourner left the graveyard.

She of course still lingered, because she was curious about how these sorts of things went.

At first she had no notion that she was separate. One moment she had been inside, and the next moment she was looking at a heavily lined face, all of the wrinkles looking like runes on weathered parchment. She stayed through the whole process of preparing for burial, fascinated by the small changes she could see were still happening, despite the attempts to have something presentable for viewing. Now at the graveyard, she was able to observe the changes hurrying along now that no one cared how the body looked.

She saw the body which looked frail to begin with, waste away further. Leg muscles that had loved to dance shriveled to nothing as the skin around started to drape like a forlorn spider’s web. The small pooch of her belly collapsed in on itself and a miasma filled the coffin. She was most amused by the changes in her face as the skin pulled tight, tugging the wrinkles into disarray, but her smile stayed much the same.

Even though many dawns had come and gone since they had lain her body in the earth, to her it seemed like all of this happened in one night. And when dawn broke, she and her body were no longer inside a coffin but in a field. At this point, she was kneeling over a skeleton, only thin wisps of hair and tattered dress clothes left beside the bones of her body.

“Oh, you brave beautiful girl,” she murmured to it. “You tried so hard. And you did so well.” She leaned over and gave the bones a kiss on the forehead and was shocked to realize she was still able to speak and feel.

“It’s alright now,” she heard a voice say. She felt dizzy. There was something familiar about the voice, about how when his hair grew too long it’d fall in his eyes, but she ignored it, still staring at her corpse.

“I can’t forget her. What will happen if I do? She was a wife, a mother. I lived a life and all that went into it, every laugh, every tear, made me who I am. I can’t forget!” she said.

There was a feeling of warmth to one side. She realized she had an arm and something had touched it. A voice came again, “You were a beautiful brave girl and you still are. Don’t be scared. Look. Look at her.”

She looked. An unkempt shrub grew near the skull, with some of its evergreen branches supporting it like a pillow. She reached out towards it, plucking a bit off. Its scent enveloped her.

“Rosemary,” she said, stroking its needle like leaves. “I know you. I know your smell.” She breathed in deeply and remembered.

She remembered everything. 

This blog post is part of the fabulous Magaly Guerrero's Witches In Fiction 2015: Death Rites and Remembrances blog party. Fly over to the main party page and check out some of the other great posts.

Gossip’s Tree

It wasn’t the biggest or oldest tree in Hawthorne County; nor was it especially ugly or lovely. It grew green in the spring, scarlet in the fall, and in the winter, snow blanketed it along with the rest of the county, in crystalline perfection.

The thing about this tree was that every twilight, the birds of the county would gather there. You’d think with so many, it’d fall under the weight, but it held. Jays would circle it, giving their “all’s well” cries, punctuating the few silent spots between the chatter.

Sometimes people passing it swore they could hear words.

Mr. Smith set up a new scarecrow. 

The Anderson twins skipped school twice this month to go fishing. 

Bethany Peabody has been having guests after dark again.

Sometimes someone would get it in their head, if they climbed it before twilight, if they kept still, they might hear everything the birds said. This was nonsense of course, because most who tried only got white stains on their clothes to show for it. And the others, well, while it was a mostly unremarkable tree, some mornings the person was gone, but you’d find the trunk had interesting new gnarls.

Process note: This is a bit of flash fiction with a 200 word limit

Miyazaki Heroine

I.                    Dragonfly

Your cheeky smile caught my eye from the start.
No, nothing like that.
It irked me.
Prodding me from my doubts and self-pity,
insisting I look at life and laugh
when I’d rather retreat.

Your smile won’t allow it.
Your faith in me is an utter surprise,
especially when I have no faith to spare.
You love the things that make me odd,
just when I start wishing I could be something else.
My smallest gifts are miracles in your eyes.

And even when I am tired,
and sure there is no more magic to be found,
I know that for you
for you, I’d find my faith again
and catch you wherever you are.

II.                  Dragon

This journey was unasked for.
Do not meddle in the affairs of kami;
their ways are strange,
and yours are the strangest of all.
Myth given form,
childhood story made real -
Oh no,
I never would have presumed to ask for this.

Silver silken ribbon,
you stand out in the night sky.
Are you lost too?
I am afraid I am not enough sometimes.
I understand only a fraction of the things here.
Everything sane left in me says to doubt you.
Perhaps I’ve been touched by your land too long,
because there’s more in me that says
you have always protected me.

And the only thing better
than being able to say your name,
your true name,
with no more fear and doubts of who you truly are,
is the sound of your voice
saying my true name
and at last knowing who I truly am.

Song Choice: A selection of songs from Miyazaki films done on piano

This poem is for Magpie's Tales 288

Famous Last Words

The world is burning around me.
This is not my finest hour.

I have no prayer of winning,
but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.

If my sword should fail,
I still have my teeth.

If my teeth break,
let it be in your throat.

I may not win,
but then again, neither might you.

Song Choice: As this was part of the inspiration for the Toad's Challenge, Carmina Burana

This prompt is part of Imaginary Gardens With Real Toad's Flash 55 Prompt. Go and enjoy more poetry at their site. 

It Was Not a Beautiful Death

"We’ll steal your boots", we said,
over cold pizza, soda, and beer.
OK, mostly root beer.
We were nerds like that.

The boot stealing and looking for loose change
was supposed to happen in an age filled with floating cars,
not two years before hover boards should have been invented.

Every bad luck joke thrown back in our faces--
even the luckiest man on earth got to make a speech,

before nerves withered,
twisting muscles, stealing words,
like a cursed prince in a fairy tale.

It reminded me of my favorite one,
and a comic relief’s tears,
once it was remembered
sometimes fairy tales don’t end well.
At least not for everybody concerned. 

And the best you can hope for,
if you cannot wield a righteous flame,
if you do not hold a magic staff,
if you rolled poorly,

at least in our memories you are restored
to full hero’s health,
even if your death was not the stuff of bard song.

We didn’t take your boots in the end. 

Song Choice: One by Metallica

Liner Note: This post is part of Imaginary Gardens For Real Toad's September 2015 post, where we were asked to select a poem of one of the young writers Kerry teaches as inspiration for our poem and help them to complete their target of 300 poems in 30 days. I was inspired by Farewell by Nishka Ramkhelawan, using the line "It was not a beautiful death" as my inspiration. Friends and long time readers may have guessed by now it was also inspired by the death of a good friend, just about two years ago from ALS, better known as Lou Gherig's disease. 

Faerie Song

Come away dear heart.
What? You don’t trust me.
But I’ve come with you in mind.
In the foreign melody alarmingly familiar,
in the joy of your childhood,
in the beat of your woman's heart,
in the scent of possibilities born in the spring,
in the delight of summer's readiness,
I have come.

I have songs to caress your ears,
and dances to teach only to you.
Question my intentions? 
You are a smart one.
But let me ask you,
what is it you want to matter?
What is it you want for that matter?

You want music.
I have it.
You want words.
I have those too.
You want to taste every bit of beauty there is,
like a greedy child, heedless of the ache to come.
I have that too.
You want love?
Of course, but you knew the answer to that, didn't you?

I can’t promise you won’t go mad first.
But I can promise to do my best to keep the ache far away,
for as long as inhumanly possible.
And revel with you as your eyes and ears open
to the miracles hiding in plain sight.
What do you say?
Care to dance?

Les Enfants Miserables

I got very excited when I heard that the musical for one of my children's school was going to be Les Miserable. I loved it as a teen! It would be so much fun to watch the movie version with my kids, as I have done with every play they've gotten involved in. Then I remembered Fushigi Yuugi.

Let me backtrack a bit. Fushigi Yuugi is one of my favorite anime series. I like to re-watch it from time to time and a bit ago, one of the children expressed an interest in watching it along with me. Sure, why not? I should state that this was the more sensitive of the two children and while this isn't the goriest or most violent anime series by a long shot the TV trope "Anyone Can Die" fully applied to this one, as well as "Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds". But we've watched Dr. Who and most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is certainly more gory and violent), so this shouldn't be so bad.

Yeah, not so much.

I was pretty surprised by how into it the child was, and how the above tropes and all the other attendant twists and terms of plot affected them. We actually had a version of this famous conversation watching the show. The other child noticed their sibling getting quite involved in the show (though there was No Way In Hell the first child would admit it) and asked to watch too. Now this is my not quite as sensitive child who took the sad parts of Dr. Who and Buffy in stride often going to the next activity merrily while the other one glared at them for not fully giving in to the pathos involved. The first child did not want to watch with the second at all, sure that this would be the case again.

Until it wasn't.

We now refer to Fushigi Yuugi as the series that taught the second child "the feels". Oh yeah, the Princess Bride conversation happened again. As well as the lower lip going, and tissues being grabbed.

And the first child LOVED it. After the first death, the first child insisted on being in the room to witness the other child finally learning fandom feels. And it didn't stop there. My niece and nephew also got to watch the series and while each of them had their moments of "Oh my god - they did not just die, did they?", that set of siblings also got joy knowing the other one (and my kids as well) had an attack of the feels at the exact same spots.

So, back to Les Miserables. I sat the kids down and told them they had the option of watching the movie if they wanted to. "It isn't called Les Happy Peoples", I said. "It's Les Miserables for a reason. I knew of at least one person who went through a dark night of the soul after watching it". Their eyes got wide, but then they looked at each other... and the question is no longer who dies but who will break first.


So sure, we'll probably watch it. And I've invited my niece and nephew along for the viewing (I know at least one of them really likes musicals) and while there will be sad feels, each of them will take comfort in the fact the others feel it too.

Song choice: I was kind of feeling Sad Songs (Say So Much) by Elton John, but let's face it. With those two Schadenfreude from Avenue Q is a better choice.

Summer Reading and Summer Talking

There's something magical when one of your children discovers a book you really remember loving as a child. One of my favorites was Anne of Green Gables. When the Girl Child needed a second book for summer reading I happened to remember loving it at her age and recommending it. It was only after we had gotten her a copy that I remembered some of the language of the book was rather old fashioned and worried that it might be a bit over her head. The Girl Child is dyslexic and while she did eventually become an eager reader, she still isn't the fastest reader. We made a deal that that I'd read a couple of chapters to her out loud so we could discuss any questions she had about the book (vocabulary, what the characters must feel like at this point in the book, what did she think would happen later, etc.) but she'd be responsible for reading the bulk of it on her own.

I think the funniest thing I discovered in reading it out loud was while I still adored Anne and strongly identified my childhood self with her, I now had a lot more empathy for Marilla, raising an imaginative chatterbox of my own. She was delighted to find out that I was a weird kid who loved making up strange stories too. (My son, who of course sat in the room for part of the reading was surprised that anyone could talk as much as his sister, in fiction or real life).  

The Boy Child's summer reading was The Night Circus, which I also read and enjoyed. He picked it up as "the only thing on the list that didn't sound depressing". I know his taste in books more or less and agreed it was the one he'd be most likely to enjoy; he's happiest reading something of a more fantastical nature. 

We didn't end up talking too much about the book, but spent a decent amount of the summer talking about a variety of things - current events, video games (well, he'll ALWAYS talk about video games when given an opportunity), the big move to high school. I'm not taking these talks for granted - it's a rare thing for a teenager to deign to talk to their parents about more than what's for dinner. The current event talks surprised me the most; he had some pretty well thought out opinions. A recent conversation on Facebook got us talking about the bigger world, and being willing to look, with both a curious and critical eye, at ideas he may not have been exposed to at home. I told him this is the age to start to figure out who he is, independent of what his dad and I are. I made sure to let him know I'd love and support his choices, even if he decided to join the Young Republicans Club (he rolled his eyes at me on that, repeating his usual complaint about not being part of a normal family). For right now his biggest act of self expression is his geek/nerd based hat collection which neither of his grandmothers are fond of. I can live with that. 

Song Choice: Last Rose of Summer

Seeking Stars

Seeking stars,
the moon lends me its light and name.
I don’t need food.
Just the hope of touching,
keeps me flying true.

This is part of the 25 word challenge thrown down by Mama Zen over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads. I thought about participating, but Magaly Guerrero's work inspired me to give it a shot. Basically the challenge is to create a poem with symbolism we feel a strong connection to (a power image), but do it under twenty five words. Personally the image of moths, especially luna moths, is one of my favorite symbols to work with. 

Of Moon and Sun

I have always been a girl of the sun.
The sight of a new morning
spilling gold through my window -
I always felt I could grab it,
wrestle it, to shape the day to my will.

But for your sake,
I can be a girl of the moon,
wandering in foggy half shadows,
and making friends of whispers.

I can look up at the moon
and see the difference
of a hair between our perspectives.
My lips, pliable and willing
to form words strange to my ears,
wishing to use them,
to be able to fly in the moon’s path,
and know the stars better.

Do you want to see the sun?
Are you as curious as I
to understand the opposite side of the world?
Then walk in the sunlight with me
and fly, even in some small way, by day,
until the moon and sun both belong to us.

This poem is part of the Tuesday Platform for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. Hop on over and look at some of the other great offerings. 

A Woman of Words

The words I was given
were condensed milk thickened on a stove,
sips of manzanilla to dream easy,
and a swish of the hips.

The words I was taught
were liberty and diversity,
and a dash of ambiguity, uncertainty,
yet always mixed with aspiration and hope.

The words that were shared
were a smoky salt kiss
with cream and chives,
big city pitter patter,
with old world curled up in the throat.

The words that I took
belong to forests across oceans,
real and imaginary,
flowing like waves across a floating world,
somehow reminding me
of that first sip of chamomile.

This poem is part of the Tuesday Platform for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. It is also the fifth poem I was challenged to write as part of a Facebook game. 

In the Genes

I think I remember writing some time ago about my mom and our relationship

For those not familiar with My Little Pony:

My dad's comment after seeing Brave was, "They even got the hair right!"

I did mention I got to appreciate her more once I moved out of the house. I love her. She loves me. And the differences are much easier to deal with in half day visits and phone calls. Her idea of the great outdoors is a mall with trees in the food court? Fine by me. I'll head to the local nature center later.

So during one of our visits I start talking to her about Japanese tea ceremony. It really can be quite complex, all the forms to memorize, the Japanese language skills. And then there are the related arts of kimono wearing, calligraphy, incense, tool making. She starts to look a bit glazed when I go on about all this and I mention she should come to one of the ceremonies they have at Shofuso, the Japanese house in Philadelphia. I'd try to arrange taking on a role as an assistant for that day, fully decked out in a formal kimono. After she gets done laughing at the idea of seeing me dressed in a kimono, she says she might come out to one, but she isn't sure. Is green tea the only option? Can she add sugar to hers.

I think I managed not to outwardly cringe. Green tea served at a formal Japanese tea ceremony is whisked up directly from powdered tea leaves. There are lots of beautiful nuances of flavor between different brands, growing locations, harvest times; nuances you'd miss with adding anything else. Sugar is NEVER added and neither is milk. I told her maybe I'd make a batch for her informally at home just for her to try rather than take the time to drive into Philly.

So later that day, she's out with me while I'm running some errands and we get to the supermarket. My mom makes a beeline for the tea section. Perplexed, I follow her. She paces up and down our local Wegman's pretty impressive tea section until she finds what she wants - an inexpensive brand of Earl Grey tea. I give a her weird look as she proceeds to empty the shelf of it, looking a bit like Daffy Duck in a cave filled with gold.

"Uh, mom. That's not exactly hard to find tea. You can get it at any supermarket."

"It's not just any Earl Grey tea. It's MY brand of Earl Grey tea. And it tastes better than any of the weird loose stuff you have. I'm always running out of it."

She goes on to wax lovingly about the variations in Earl Grey and how this particular brand has just the right sort of blend none other can match. She's actually pretty knowledgeable about flavor profiles, and she definitely knows what she likes. My mom marches to the check out counter like she's Indiana Jones carrying a sacred relic back to a museum. And I realize, though we are pretty different, we both take our tea time seriously. Very, very seriously.

Song Choice: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off preformed by Harry Connick Jr.

Picture, Earl Grey Dragon, used with 
kind permission of the artist, Brian Kesinger. 
See more of his super cute, tea themed art at his etsy shop

This post is part of the Mad Tea Party 2015 blog hop hosted by  A Fanciful Twist. Follow the link to see more fun tea themed blog posts

Your Luna Sounds Like Trelawney

Only a week left to go before my kids get to summer vacation. Summers really aren't what they used to be when they were little. I remember getting them out to every free artsy thing my small town offered - music in the park, local festivals. The one thing I didn't do as often, was take them to story hours.

You see, I'm something of a ham. When I was younger I really wanted to be in plays and things but was always too timid to try out. By the time I finally did get the nerve to try for something I thought I'd be a shoe-in for (supporting cast of West Side Story in my senior year in high school), it was too late, I just didn't have any experience, and I didn't even get Shark Girl #5.

It wasn't until my 30's when I got brave enough to try to perform again. Nothing grand mind you. I was Queen Esther in my local temple's Purim Spiel for several years in a row. I've performed as a belly dancer both solo and in groups for small shows. Those were wonderful experiences I wouldn't trade for anything. But some of my favorite performances are the ones I've done for my kids just reading their favorite books to them.

My kids didn't care that I froze up at tryout for a school talent show or crashed and burned on the West Side Story try out. I had a lot of fun making up kooky, over the top voices for their favorite characters, dropping and raising my pitch at just the right moments. My rendition of Fox in Socks was a huge favorite. I think the craziest I ever got with it was reading the whole Harry Potter series twice - with different voices for all the major characters -  once out loud to my son, and the second time out loud to my daughter and my son. He tried to pretend he wasn't listening the second time around, but he was good at noticing when I was getting sloppy. "Your Luna sounds like Trelawney," he said once looking over the top of his video game.

"I thought you weren't listening," I said.

His response was a grunt as I recall. But a few minutes later he put the game down and was listening as intently as his sister. (I did adjust my reading a bit so my Luna sounded different.)

They're big now. Too big to really read to as much as I did when they were young. Except, my daughter has asked that she get special reading time while my son is at camp. And she wants me to read Harry Potter again, when the new illustrated version comes out. My son said he might even listen too, you know if Dad listens, just to see his reaction because my husband has never read the books.

So, they'll mostly be off with their friends, which is a great thing, because they are growing up. And a lot of time will go to the camps they wanted to attend. But I kind of love that I know that in slow moments this summer, I'll be reading something, maybe Sisters Grimm, the Chronicles of Narnia, or the Hobbit, and maybe they'll still feel like listening.

Maybe the Princess Bride? I'll have to reread it first to make sure.

Song Choice: Narnia by Steve Hackett


Death was the beginning.
No, it started before then.
Ivy, green and spreading,
just needing something to cling to.

It paid no mind
to the wildflowers
running freely where they willed.

Nor to the fact,
the wood was rotten to begin with.

Wanting only home,
objecting when pulled away,
still knowing no home is here.

This post is part of Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads Flash 55 post. Go visit and take a look at some other great poetry. 

Update From the Real World

I think this might be my first blog post about real world happenings in a while. I've been really focused on living up to the promise I made to myself to get enough short stories written to have a real *gulp* book ready for publication. I have two stories that need a second run through, a Yuuki story that is ready for another pair of eyes besides mine, a Rina story started and notes/ outlines on a couple more stories, including a Cordelia one. I originally thought I'd have seven in this collection, but that might be too little. I'll have to see what all of them look like once they've been edited at least once before I decide.

In between writing, I've been working on tea and belly dance. I find I can write a bit better if I keep active in between writing sessions. I think I'm finally getting this new tea form, which means they'll be throwing another one at me soon. Also I had the chance to play with my veil fans again on Monday night lesson. I forgot how much I loved working with those props. It makes me want to dust off the routine I choreographed for them awhile back.

I'll be back with a new poem for the blog soon. In the meantime, let me know if you'd like to see more real world updates from me from time to time.

Tea sweets from a recent lesson. The classmate who made them is quite talented!

Song Choice: Here I Am by Sertab (this is the song I choreographed the veil fan routine to)

Spiderweb Silk

Spider web fine,
the thread I followed,
to the forest.

One old friend saying,
“You’ll love it here.”
Another old friend,
rediscovered from summer’s past,
ready to share a room and tea.
And then something new completely.

A house with a tree inside didn’t seem as important anymore.
And you told tradition, while you honored it,
you were going to love as you willed.

Spider web silk wove around us both.
Though I soar to worlds strange to you,
strange to myself if I’m being honest,
spider web silk holds strong,
for a score now,
and will for many years more.

Image from one of my favorite movies, Kiki's Delivery Service

This poem was inspired by a prompt from Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, Connect the Chimes Challenge. Follow the prompt for more great poetry

Fangs, Sheathed

The scratch of colored pencil on paper was the only sound in Grandmother Amaryllis’s conservatory. Xander sat beside one the massive pillars that framed the center of the indoor garden. The moonlight shone through the glass ceiling on hundreds of exotic night blooming flowers from around the world, but he only had eyes for the Arctia caja he was sketching.

Xander stopped to examine the shadow of the moth’s wing as it sat on the flower of a sprawling Queen of Night plant. He pulled out 5 different hues of purple, appraising each until he settled on one and blended it into the matching shadow in his sketchbook. Satisfied, he flipped to an earlier attempt to draw the same moth, before Mother noticed his interest and gifted him with the professional quality colored pencils. There was no doubt; he had grown better, just as she said he would.

He started contemplating shades of cream when a howl shattered the peace of the conservatory.
Emma, he thought, gritting his teeth. She and Grandmother must have returned from their outing. There went any chance of finishing this properly – unless Grandmother distracted her with something. Maybe she would. He took a deep breath, went back to his drawing when a second howl knifed through his ears, followed by an agitated Grandmother Amaryllis.

Her dark eyes found Xander’s. “I cannot believe how ungrateful your sister is!”

Xander didn’t say a word. He wondered why adults said these things. It’s not as if Emma hatched from a cocoon last night and the whole family hadn’t endured a century’s worth of her tantrums, her whining, or her leaving half eaten body parts lying about.

Grandmother Amaryllis cleared her throat, letting Xander know a response was expected. “What has she done now?” he asked.

“Well, I had such a lovely evening planned. We went to her favorite cafĂ©. I bought her a doll.”

Spoiled brat, thought Xander.

“And then when we arrived at the dentist’s office, she just about embarrassed me completely!” Grandmother said.

“The dentist?”

“Yes,” she said. “I know she can be difficult there, so I just didn’t tell her until we arrived.”

“Um, Grandmother, are you sure that was wise?”

She gave him a withering look. “What was I supposed to do? Emma tantrums even when it’s a normal appointment. I could only imagine what she would have done if she knew she was getting braces. Thank goodness I told them to have extra sedative on hand. I had to pay extra for the sharpshooters, but it was worth it. She was out for the whole thing.”

Another howl interrupted Grandmother Amaryllis.

“But she’s awake now,” Xander said.

“She’ll thank me later – I told her that – when she has a nice smile like yours she’ll be properly grateful.”

Xander started packing away his art supplies.

“Xander, darling, if you are leaving could you find Bradford and have him bring me a restorative? I am simply worn out. Tell him to bring it to my sitting room”

Xander nodded and then went to look for his sister.

She was slumped, sobbing by the statue of Vlad the Impaler in the foyer. Xander reached out and touched her shoulder. She drew away snarling.

“Braces, Xander, braces! They’re awful and they hurt and how am ever going to bite anything again? I’ll have to have blood in a cup, like some kind of toddler and I’ll never strike fear into anything like that!” She howled again.

“Emma, take it easy. Yeah, Grandmother should have told you first but –“

“But what? She just wants me to be just like you, and I’m not. I’m me. And I don’t want braces!”

“There’s nothing in the world, not braces, not even Grandmother that can stop you from being you. You’re kind of annoying like that. And you’ll be able to hunt again. There’s a bit of a trick to getting the blood out, and it will be messy at first, but I’ll show you how. We can go hunting tonight even,” Xander said.

“Will it be terribly messy?” she asked, sitting up. “With blood everywhere? And screaming?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes," he said. "It will take a little longer so there will be a lot of mess and screaming.”

“Let’s go now!”

“No, first I have to tell Bradford to get Grandmother a snack. Then I am I going to finish up my drawing.”

Emma crossed her arms. “Weird bug pictures again?” she said.

“Moths. And they’re not weird they’re awesome. And no complaining while I finish or we won’t go anywhere.”

“I guess that’s fair. As long as you don’t to talk me about them until I fall asleep. No more naps tonight.”

“Actually, I was going to talk to them and you won’t fall asleep, you’ll learn something,” he said, offering his hand to help her stand up. “Did you know some of the moths in the Saturniidae family are considered pests, while some make silk? One genus is poison to the touch.”

Emma took Xander's hand and got up. “OK, you can tell me about the poison one, but that’s it," she said. And together they walked back to the conservatory.

Song Choice: Dance Little Sister by Terrence Trent D'Arby

Author's Note: This story can certainly be read alone, but readers might find the earlier installments in Xander and Emma's story, Like Kids in a Candy Store and Tea With Grandmother, enjoyable as well.

Reviewing NaPoWriMo and a Beltane Surprise

If someone had told me when I was younger that I would write a poem for every day in April with a grin on my face, I probably would have made some sort of sarcastic remark and gone back to whatever book I was reading. If someone told me that during that month of poetry I as good as promised to have a finished collection of short stories ready to publish, I would have looked around for a walrus fencing a member of the Russian ballet while Pee Wee Herman sang an aria, because it could only be a strange dream.

Well I did (wow!) and I will (gulp!). I've been so inspired by all the great poetry I was introduced to this month and I think I've learned a decent bit about poetry and prose just by looking over my own words. One of the biggest things I learned was the magic of punctuation! I'm a bit red-faced over my realization of what a difference it makes. I mean, I know exactly what it's supposed to sound like in my brain. I suppose it would be kind to let the readers in on the secret as well.

I took a long look at a poem I had written for Magpie Tales, Impertinent, partially because it seemed like a pretty good response to one of the poems I had written during NaPoWriMo, Imaginary. I still liked it quite a bit, but knowing what I know now, I felt I had to make some corrections. And since now it reads the way it should sound, I thought I should record myself reading it, because it just seems like the perfect sort of poem for Beltane. Enjoy!

Song Choice: I Get Weak by Belinda Carlisle


Ukiyo-e blue is my inspiration.
Lost in cerulean perfection,
    a sky filled by dreams
          and caresses from impish winds,
              implied but not seen.
                 At least by most.

Ukiyo-e red is my inspiration.
My soul engulfed by its fire.
      Scarlet hues dare me
          to be consumed completely
              in a passion of my choosing.
                  If I am brave enough to say yes.

I do not exist without them.
Life, a sad monochrome
without the impudent tints
animating me.

More than lines and colors on paper.
They are muse.

South Wind, Clear Sky (Red Fuji) by Katsushika Hokusai

Song choice: Love Letter to Japan by the Bird and Bee
This poem was created from a prompt offered by Magaly Guerrero for NaPoWriMo (Day 30: Poetry Gone Wild - any topic!)

And with that, I am done with NaPoWriMo! Whew! Thank you to all the brave souls who kept reading! 

In Thirty Days

Trading in a lab coat for a beret isn’t easy.
Stories in the brain
scamper like sugar fueled toddlers once on paper.
Thirty days seems like a long exercise,
but it makes a mind more limber
with each lesson learned.

Every day, write something new,
or refine an errant scrawl.
Learn the confines of the project,
then make it your own.
Get to the heart or guts quickly.

This D-town girl be but little,
but she has a fierce love for the written word.
And even if thunder and lightning
don’t bring the rains that bring
the blossoms I wanted,
I still flew.
And that's better than just thinking about it.

Song Choice: Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti (better known as the theme from Rocky)
This poem was created from a prompt offered by Magaly Guerrero for NaPoWriMo (Day 29: This Poem Has a Mission - what do I hope to accomplish in 30 days)


Dilated blood vessels
tint skin rosy hues.
Neurotransmitters spill out
to be cupped by awaiting receptors.

Breath comes quick now.
Adrenaline races perspiration,
leaving the stomach the loser.

That’s all this is.
The same way
are just nonsense, 
alphabetically speaking.

This poem was created from a prompt offered by Magaly Guerrero for NaPoWriMo (Day 28: A poem based on a Terry Pratchett quote). The Hogfather was my first introduction to Pratchett and this quote is the first one I think of when I think of Discworld. 

"Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?"
"Oh, come on. You can't expect me to believe that. It's an astronomical fact."
"Really? Then what would have happened, pray?"
― Terry PratchettHogfather

Get On Up Day – April 27th

One day might do.
Just ease into it.
Tap a hand.
Jiggle a toe.
Sometimes, that’s all you can do.
That’s all right.

But your head might begin to nod.
Your shoulders want in on the action.
Dance still might be too much -
Air guitar, air didgeridoo -
whatever it takes.
Just give in to that movement.

If you are scared,
go into a room.
Turn out the light.
Play the music through headphones,
or make it up in your mind.
It doesn’t matter which.
Once you’ve got it,


Let joy animate your limbs,
heart beating out your rhythm,
each step bearing witness to your existence.

Hips slide expertly,
or not.
But do it
not because it’s a holiday.
But because it’s a heck of a lot fun.

Song Choice: Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon
This poem was created from a prompt offered by Magaly Guerrero for NaPoWriMo (Day 27: Making up cheer: A poem about a holiday you made up)


It was not an easy thing to admit,
this need.
I had done with girlhood fairytales.
Stupid to believe in those.
I learned my lesson.

It was just a kiss among the cherry blossoms,
a song at the right moment,
just touches of beauty sublime.
I ignored each golden thread spun from those moments,
binding me.

At the time, it seemed like I was caught in an instant,
but you set your trap well.
Before the words even left my lips,
there was no hope for me.

All that was left was to believe again.
I hope you’re pleased with yourself.
I know I am.

Art used with kind permission of artist: True Love by Studio Yuki
Check out more of her stunning photography at her etsy shop, Studio Yuki.

Song choice: Head Over Feet by Alanis Morissette 
This poem was created from a prompt offered by Magaly Guerrero for NaPoWriMo (Day 26: Speak to your affliction)